Warned, at Least Eight Years Late

Monday, December 12, 2016

Michael Kinsley of the Washington Post argues that Donald Trump is a fascist. Kinsley makes some interesting points, although I think he would do better by considering some of Ayn Rand's thoughts on fascism, starting with the below:

For many decades, the leftists have been propagating the false dichotomy that the choice confronting the world is only: communism or fascism -- a dictatorship of the left or of an alleged right -- with the possibility of a free society, of capitalism, dismissed and obliterated, as if it had never existed.
To be clear, I agree that Trump is a fascist, but disagree with many other things Kinsley says or implies. For one thing, I think he ought to reconsider his equivocation of government force and economic "power":
A disastrous intellectual package-deal, put over on us by the theoreticians of statism, is the equation of economic power with political power. You have heard it expressed in such bromides as: "A hungry man is not free," or "It makes no difference to a worker whether he takes orders from a businessman or from a bureaucrat." Most people accept these equivocations -- and yet they know that the poorest laborer in America is freer and more secure than the richest commissar in Soviet Russia. What is the basic, the essential, the crucial principle that differentiates freedom from slavery? It is the principle of voluntary action versus physical coercion or compulsion.

The difference between political power and any other kind of social "power," between a government and any private organization, is the fact that a government holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force.
Both considerations are relevant to considering Kinsley's valid points, and marshaling them towards a real understanding what just happened with the election of Donald Trump. This fact is manifest in that commentator's implicit attacks on "big" business, the fact that he fails to see Trump as intensifying the pressure group warfare of the previous administrations, and the fact that he appears to miss the significance of the very profound observation he closes with:
Just to be clear: If I'm correct that Trump actually has a governing philosophy, that's a bad thing, not a good thing. If he actually has principles to guide him through those famous swamps he plans to drain, that's alarming, not reassuring. Bad principles are not a good substitute for no principles. Four or eight years of bad principles may make no principles look pretty good.
So, contrary to Kinsley's implication that Trump is substantially different from Obama or Clinton, his actions demonstrate that he, like his predecessor and his opponent, thinks the government should be running everything (rather than protecting individual rights, which makes it possible for individuals to run businesses and their own lives). In my opinion, Trump has absorbed from our culture both the philosophy of pragmatism and the dominant mixed-economy political model (which drifts towards socialism/fascism). So: Trump will overall represent a political continuation of the past couple of decades, but may favor a different set of pressure groups, and his lack of explicit principles will make specific actions of his unpredictable.

So I think Kinsley makes a great point about the unplatability of government by bad principles, but he is at least least eight years late seeing it and warning us about it. In this election, Americans, having seen the results of government based on bad principles, voted for someone they saw as rejecting those principles, if not principles as such. (Rejection of principles as such is folly, but it is understandable for the very reasons Kinsley states.)

Unfortunately, as unhappy as many of these voters were with the results of those principles, they aren't clear about either the role of principles in guiding action or the principles implicitly guiding Trump. There is a real danger that Trump will make good principles look bad, or bad ones look good, and ushering in someone who holds bad principles, and is ruthlessly effective in implementing them.

What Americans need to do is rediscover the importance and value of liberty, and the sooner the better.

-- CAV

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